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DYI Estate Plan Gone Awry

Do-it-yourself estate planningRevoking a will is one of the simplest of legal actions that a person can undertake. However, a recent case reveals that it is possible to entirely mess up the process.

If you want to revoke your will, you have a lot of options. You can simply write and execute a new will. You can write "Void" on your will. You can simply destroy the will. You can burn it, shred it, or throw it into a landfill. Revoking a will is not a difficult process. It is certainly much easier than creating a will in the first place.

A recent article from Elder Law Answers, “Efforts to Change Will Using Photocopy and Then Downloaded Form Are Ineffective," describes a case decided by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in August 2015, that proves that it is possible to “fail to revoke” a will.

Esther Sullivan had a will created in 2006. It was a properly executed and valid will that left half of her estate to a former employee. In 2008, she had a change of heart. She photocopied the will and made handwritten changes to it, all of which she initialed. She also wrote that the 2006 will was void. This new document removed the former employee and left half the estate to someone else.

Later, in 2010, Williams downloaded a form will off the Internet, filed in the blanks and signed it believing it was to be her new will. The court, however, ruled that her 2006 will was still valid. The reason? Neither the 2008 document nor the 2010 document were properly executed. Consequently, neither “new will” could by law revoke the 2006 will.

Even though it is clear that Sullivan wanted to revoke her will and no longer wanted the former employee to get half of her estate, her failure to properly revoke the 2006 will means that the former employee will get the inheritance.

Be sure to work with an estate planning attorney whether you want to create, change or completely redo your estate plan. You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.  However, proper estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project.  Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.  

Reference:  Elder Law Answers (August 2015) "Efforts to Change Will Using Photocopy and Then Downloaded Form Are Ineffective"

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